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VIDEO: Tampa Police Chief Resigns After Using Badge To Get Out Of Ticket

Tampa, FL – Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor resigned on Monday after bodycam footage surfaced showing her flashing her badge during a traffic stop in November and telling the deputy to let her and her husband go without a ticket (video below).

“In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent,” Chief O’Connor said in a statement last week, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The 52-year-old now-former police chief, who was earning an annual salary of $192,920, had only been at the helm of the Tampa Police Department (TPD) since Feb. 8.

She said in a one-page letter to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Dec. 5 that she was leaving her job “with great sadness,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“I would never want my personal mistake to stand in the way of the progress I have made in mending relationships between the police department and the community, so for that reason, I am resigning,” Chief O’Connor wrote.

Castor said she requested the police chief’s resignation after an internal investigation into the Nov. 12 traffic stop revealed Chief O’Connor had violated TPD policies with regards to “abuse of position or identification” and “standard of conduct,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards for ethical and professional behavior that apply to every member of our police force,” the mayor said in a statement. “As the Chief of Police, you are not only to abide by and enforce those standards but to also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case.”

The incident occurred in Oldsmar’s East Lake Woodlands neighborhood at approximately 7:25 p.m. on Nov. 12, bodycam footage showed.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) Deputy Larry Jacoby was out on patrol in the area of the gated community when he spotted a golf cart with no registration traveling on a public roadway.

Chief O’Connor’s husband, retired TPD Assistant Chief Keith O’Connor, was driving the cart at the time of the stop.

The police chief was sitting beside him, badge in hand, when Deputy Jacoby approached, bodycam footage showed.

Keith O’Connor explained that they didn’t normally drive the cart on public streets, but that they had done so that night to go pick up food from a nearby restaurant.

“Is your camera on?” Chief O’Connor suddenly interrupted.

“It is,” Deputy Jacoby confirmed.

“I’m the police chief in Tampa,” she responded. “I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight.”

Chief O’Connor then handed her badge over to her husband to show the deputy.

Deputy Jacoby commented that he thought she looked familiar.

“I’m sure I do,” she responded.

The deputy and the police chief briefly exchanged pleasantries before the traffic stop wrapped up, the video showed.

“Take care and it was nice meeting you,” Deputy Jacoby said.

Chief O’Connor then handed over what appeared to be her business card.

“You ever need anything, call me,” she said. “Serious. Thank you.”

The incident seemed to be over until local media group Creative Loafing Tampa Bay requested the bodycam footage from the PCSO in late November, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The video was released on Dec. 1.

Castor said she ordered an internal investigation immediately thereafter.

Chief O’Connor was placed on administrative leave on Dec. 2.

The PCSO gave Chief O’Connor a one-day notice that the footage would be released, Castor’s office told the Tampa Bay Times.

The chief allegedly told investigators that she only identified herself to Deputy Jacoby “for safety,” TPD Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw said in a letter summarizing the findings of the internal investigation.

She then “admitted she made a mistake by further asking to be let go without a ticket,” Assistant Chief Bercaw said.

“Chief O’Connor advised she provided the deputy with her business card as she does with hundreds of citizens and law enforcement officers,” the investigative summary read. “She added this action was not intended to give the deputy any type of preferential treatment.”

The assistant chief further concluded Chief O’Connor “used her official position and her badge for obtaining privileges, not otherwise available, in an attempt to avoid the issuance of a traffic citation,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“These actions compromised the professionalism, ethics, of the Police Chief and the City of Tampa,” he added.

Castor said she was disappointed by the now-former police chief’s actions and that she originally “had high hopes” for her when she appointed her to the position.

The mayor said it was “unacceptable for any public employee, and especially the city’s top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Castor also pointed out that she had given Chief O’Connor a “second chance” by placing her at the helm of the TPD in the first place.

That comment referred to an incident in 1995, during which the O’Connors were pulled over by a Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

They were not yet married at the time, but they had both already begun working for the TPD.

According to official records, Mary O’Connor – known then as Officer Mary Minter – repeatedly interfered with deputies as they were conducting field sobriety tests on Keith O’Connor.

She ultimately punched a deputy in the chest and shoulder, and proceeded to kick the windows of the patrol car when they placed her inside of it, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Mary O’Connor was ultimately arrested on charges of obstruction, battery on a law enforcement officer, and disorderly intoxication.

She pleaded no contest to obstruction and battery, and a judge withheld adjudication, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Keith O’Connor was arrested for drunk driving.

The couple was fired over the incident, but they both later got their jobs back and rose through the ranks over the decades that followed, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Castor said the city will conduct a nationwide search for the TPD’s next chief, but that the process will likely take several months.

Assistant Chief Bercaw will continue in his role as acting police chief in the interim, NBC News reported.

Watch the incident unfold in the video below:

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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